Despite being a niche facility segment, data centres account for a significant part of the global power demand. Their operations depend on uninterrupted, quality power supply, while the corporations that own them have to meet sustainability goals as well.
In India, conventional and non-renewable energy powers most data centres; this is more expensive and not at all sustainability-friendly. In this context, it is relevant for us to understand from Pradeep Lala, MD & CEO, Embassy Services Pvt Ltd how facility managers can ramp up renewable energy in general and solar power in particular in India.
In recent years, the country has seen a significant increase in the use of renewable energy. How do you assess the RE adoption trend in buildings and construction?
It is true, and India is now ranked fourth in the world. We are now at more than 46 GW of solar capacity, up from around 2.6 MW eight years ago — an increase of approximately 280%. However, the contribution of renewable energy sources is about 27% (94 GW), with 46 MW (Hydro) in the total installed capacity. This happened because of the comprehensive policies of the government, whether it be single-window permissions for renewable energy projects, the relaxation of on-grid and off-grid policies, the focus on open-access regulation, and giving importance to distributed solar and solar pumps among other reasons.
This trend is quite evident in the infrastructure field as well. To support India’s NDC, this sector should be decarbonised by integrating renewable energy and energy efficiency strategies. This sector contributes to almost 40% of annual global CO2 emissions, and in most cases, older infrastructure contributes more. Nevertheless, it’s a good sign that developers and real estate players are thinking about depending more on renewable energy in building and construction. For example, at Embassy Group, we have invested in our own 100 MW solar plant in Karnataka that supplies up to 70% of power to our business parks. We are also developing 20 MW of solar-rooftop capacity across this portfolio.
What is the prevailing market scenario in the solar segment?
India falls within the torrid zone, with nearly 280 days of direct sunlight and 5,000 trillion kWh of incident energy per year. Solar energy is therefore an indisputable resource. This sector has been doing well, so much so that we have seen a visible impact in the Indian energy scenario. In fact, the National Institute of Solar Energy has assessed a 750 GW potential. The International Solar Alliance has been established as well, aiming at $1,000 billion of investment for the massive deployment of solar energy required to scale up.
There are initiatives taken by the Government of India to promote this segment, which has now achieved grid-parity. On-grid and off-grid, on-site/BTM/off-site, and open access are all options. With the grid-connected cumulative capacity of solar power plants reaching 60 GW, off-grid applications such as street lighting, home lighting, solar lanterns, solar pumps and solar standalones are remarkable.
How is Embassy Services Pvt Ltd engaged in the promotion of solar power in building systems? What are the latest activities in the company?
ESPL has engaged in solar plant asset management, and is managing 230MWp of solar power plants as of today. We are responsible for solar-energy supplies and allocation at almost 80+ consumption points, comprising a contract demand of 400 million units a year. Embassy Group has initiated an additional 20MW of solar-rooftop capacity across our business parks in India.
We have a separate wing to help commercial and industrial establishments explore renewable energy options to meet their energy demands in line with their respective state electricity regulations. Currently, ESPL is engaged in providing such services in the states of Karnataka, Maharashtra, Haryana, Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, and Telangana. The ongoing assignments have focused on the demand for energy, energy intensity, and carbon intensity.
How do you look at future trends in RE and the solar segment in particular?
We do know that there is a great scope for renewable energy, and we do have favourable policies as well; however, renewable energy faces load curtailment even though it has a must-run status. Furthermore, in order to increase our renewable energy capacity to 500 GW by 2030 and meet 50% of our energy requirements, our transmission and distribution networks must be sufficiently robust.
There have been growing efforts in the recent past, such as the Solar Park Scheme, VGF Schemes, CPSU Scheme, Defence Scheme, Canal Bank & Canal Top Scheme, Bundling Scheme, Grid Connected Solar Rooftop Scheme, amongst many others. We still need to see a clear trajectory for RPO, ISTS, and losses for interstate sales, as well as how BTM and SRTP will be promoted. We are certain of the enormous potential in decentralised and distributed solar, though we have much more to achieve in this space.
What is your vision for the building and construction sector as a key market for the promotion of RE applications and adding to India’s net zero goals?
This sector is among the top 10 emitters. The integration of renewable energy sources and energy-efficiency measures is a key to reducing carbon emissions. If you segregate the real estate and construction sectors into commercial, retail, industrial, hotels, hospitals, multi-storey societies, school-college campuses, government buildings, etc., we would be easily able to understand the energy and carbon intensity of such establishments.
Building operations account for nearly 25% of annual emissions, and building construction accounts for 5-6%; therefore, moving forward with energy upgrades, energy efficiency measures, and using carbon-free and renewable energy sources in existing establishments will help.
Future buildings, on the other hand, will require energy-efficient designs or infrastructure, no on-site conventional source, electrification, and 100% RE or iREC in cases where renewable energy is not feasible. We see 60–70% of emissions being targeted this way; individuals also play a vital role in achieving net zero. It’s about behavioural change for collective responsibility.
Furthermore, if net zero is the goal, we must not only investigate upstream and downstream for Scopes 1 and 2, but also investigate upstream and downstream for Scope 3; in fact, the industry has begun discussions on Scope 4 emissions as well.